When I talk about my lifestyle, people always seem to be fascinated by the fact that I kill and butcher meat at home – I presume because it is so far removed from most people’s experience (and because it is an unpleasant process). They seem even more bemused if they know that I love animals.
Keeping animals, and eating meat, allows our family to lead a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. This is contrary to conventional thinking – meat eating is normally associated with a higher environmental footprint. This is certainly the case in industrial agricultural systems where animal production is not integrated with other farming systems: many animals are raised on food that could be consumed by humans, and the waste produced from intensive systems becomes a disposal problem.
Integrated plants and animals have up until very recently been the norm in agricultural systems throughout the world. Animals excel at concentrating protein for human consumption. They turn material humans cannot eat, for example kitchen and garden scraps, leaves and grasses, into high-quality protein for human consumption.
Trying to grow our family’s protein directly – for instance in the form of soybeans or other legumes – would be impossible in our permaculture system.